Two common themes dominated my 2013 trail-running season: over-scheduling and overtraining.
I entered the year with a pretty ambitious schedule: races in four different states and two countries, including two three-day stage races.
I survived the schedule and ran the most miles in a year in my life — 1,300.5 — surpassing the 1,251 that I ran in 2012, but the schedule took a serious toll. I had my best racing season in some respects, but a lack of scheduled rest and recovery time took a pretty harsh toll on my body. I trashed my calves in the first race of the year, struggled with mid-summer training, and landed in the emergency room in Canada after finishing my second 50-miler.
But I also met some fantastic new friends along the way, including folks like Meghan Hicks of irunfar.com and mountain-running beast Jeremy Day at 3 Days of Syllamo, and a whole slew of people at the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. And then there was our condo crew in Whistler who made for one big happy family, one of which came to my rescue on race day and snagged my heart in the process.
The year opened Jan. 20 at the Big Bend 50K at Big Bend National Park – one of the most remote national parks in the United States, and a stunningly beautiful desert location. My goal was to push the pace, toeing the line between flying and imploding for as long as possible until things turned ugly. I cruised for 16.5 miles before cramps brought my race crashing down. I finished 18th overall with a massive 50K PR of 5:14.20, but I ended up destroying my calves due to the cramping and it took about two months for them to fully recover. That meant I went into 3 Days of Syllamo undertrained. That three-day stage race in March in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas was even more of a challenge than it was expected to be. I finished the 50K on day one and the 20(ish)K on day three, but I dropped 19 miles into the 50-miler on day two.
April marked a nice bounce-back as I finished 10th at the Free State 40-miler at Clinton State Park in Lawrence, Kansas.
In June, I headed to Tennessee for the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race, a three-day event that covered three different mountains and 60 miles. It was more rugged running than I’d anticipated – the third day in particular – but I finished all three days and had an absolute blast at the well-organized event. Even better was the crew of Texans that I traveled with, as well as the fine folks who I met while staying at the Crash Pad hostel. There were so many inspiring runners and genuinely good people.
My running took a turn for the worse after Chattanooga. The Kansas City summer had such inconsistent weather – hot and steamy weeks in the 90s followed by cool and comfy weeks in the 50s – that my body never really adapted. I struggled on so many training runs and cut a lot of them short. My body was fatigued and I was mentally drained.
I headed to Colorado in mid-August to pace for Sherrie at the Leadville Trail 100, and the 26 miles of trail time – including the scenic return trip over Hope Pass – were the last bit of good running that my legs had in them for the summer. Two mostly sleepless weeks followed thanks to a nonstop fire drill at work, and then I headed to Whistler exhausted and run-down for the Meet Your Maker 50-Miler.
My body wasted no time telling me it was through with me on race morning. A finish line still awaited me, but so did two hospitals and an ambulance ride.
I pretty much shut down my running for a few months after MYM50. Some weeks I didn’t run at all. Others I totaled mileage into the upper 20s. Nothing was planned; nothing was serious; I had no training targets, and it was wonderful. I absolutely winged a 50K at the Kansas Ultrarunners’ Society 6-Hour Run on Nov. 16 in Wichita and finished eighth with 31.98 miles in a little less than six hours – not bad for having one double-digit mileage run in the previous 11 weeks!
After the 6-Hour event, I took it easy for the next month before cranking out five straight days of 10-milers leading up to Christmas. That allowed me to finish 2013 strong, hit a new yearly mileage PR, and head into 2014 feeling like my base is strong.
I’m not signed up for any races yet for 2014, but I’m beginning to feel inspired. I have a happy heart and renewed motivation heading into the new year. I’ll most likely run a few events I haven’t done before on trails I’ve never seen, and I’m eyeing some new distances as well.
I won’t race as much as I did in 2013, and I may or may not run more miles – the total number doesn’t matter much anyway – but the focus will remain the same: run happy, stay healthy, and keep pushing forward.